The following treks are merely popular suggestions. All treks are customizable to suit timeframes and levels of ability.
Pahalgam is the staging point for one of Kashmir's oldest and most popular overnight treks. The Amarnath Yatra is undertaken by more than 30,000 pilgrims every year and has been a continuing tradition for the last 300 years. This spectacular 5 day, 92 km trek is usually done in the full moon of Sawan (July-August), the most auspicious time to visit the holy ice lingam at the Amarnath cave; although trekkers who are not pilgrims may wish to go in the second half of June as horse prices are lower and the trail not crowded with singing and chanting devotees. Of course, these colourful folk can be quite an attraction in themselves.
The trail begins at Pahalgam, though it is possible to drive till Chandanwari, and ascends to the exquisite glacial lake at Sheshnag. From Sheshnag the trail climbs steeply to the Mahgunas pass at 4,580 metres and then descends to Panchtarni, crossing the Sheshnag stream over several points. Along this route are many places to admire the spectacular mountain ranges behind Sheshnag. From Panchtarni, the final stage to the Amarnath cave crosses a snow bridge and follows the Amravati stream. Once at Amarnath, the trekker has the option of returning to Pahalgam or backtracking till Panchtarni to take the trail to Baltal, close to the town of Sonmarg.
Season: June to October.
Duration: 5 days.
Stages: Pahalgam to Chandanwari (13 km), Chandanwari to Sheshnag (11 km), Sheshnag to Panchtarni (11 km), Panchtarni to Amarnath and Baltal (21 km).
Note: Camping sites are available on the route. Pack ponies will be hired at Pahalgam. A cook will travel with you. Hotels, guesthouses and campsites are available at Pahalgam and Sonmarg.
The Pahalgam-Kolahoi Glacier-Pahalgam trek takes 6 days and covers approximately 70 km. At the Kolahoi glacier the trekker can catch a glimpse of the Kolahoi Peak and see the source of the Lidder River. Excursions to the Tarsar and Marsar lakes in the Upper Dachigam area can also be made from here if the trekker has an additional two days. The first stage of this trek, from Pahalgam to Aru, can be done by vehicle. It is, however, recommended that the trail be walked to acclimatize ahead of the tougher routes to follow. This trail follows the Lidder River to the open meadows at Aru, where excellent campsites as well as private hotels are available. The short trek from Aru to Lidderwat runs through thick pine forests to undulating meadows where the trekker can see the local shepherds grazing livestock. From Lidderwat the trail follows the west bank of the Lidder through Gujjar encampments to the largest nomadic village in the area at Satlanjan. The Kolahoi peak (5,734 metres) is usually clouded over by midmorning, so it is wise to start early from Satlanjan. The trekker does not have to go to the glacier to view Kolahoi; you also have the choice of ascending the ridge opposite Kolahoi, or climbing to Dodsar after fording the Lidder stream. You can return to Lidderwat the same day, or leave the next morning for Aru and then Pahalgam.
Season: May to October.
Duration: 6 nights. Grade: Moderate.
Stages: Pahalgam to Aru (11 km), Aru to Lidderwat (11 km), Lidderwat to Satlanjan (4 km), Satlanjan to Kolahoi to Lidderwat (14 km), Lidderwat to Am (11 km), Aru to Pahalgam (11 km).
Note: Ponies will be hired at Pahalgam or Aru. A cook will travel with you. Aru and Lidderwat have accommodation.
Kishtwar is an isolated district in Jammu & Kashmir, accessible from both Jammu and Srinagar. This trek is a revelation of 19th Century Kashmiri culture, and offers opportunities for the trekker to explore some of the valleys that lead to the heart of the greater Himalayas. Trekkers can also deviate from the main path to explore the Kiar and Kibar valley at the base of the Sickle Moon or Bhrahmah peaks. You can either take a bus or walk to the Palmer village. Ikhala is only a few kilometres on from Palmer, and there is a good rest house and camping sites at the base of the trail. The second day's trek to the Sirshi village initially passes through heavily forested gorges to the confluence of the Kibar and Kiar nullahs (ravines). From Sirshi, the trail passes through rich farmland offering a spectacular view of the Brahmah peak. Gradually the irrigated area gives way to thickly forested gorges that lead to the village of Hanzal. A little beyond Hanzal, the forests are replaced by orchards of walnut and apples at Marva and Yourdu. From Yourdu the trail first runs along the banks of the Warwan river to Inshin, a major village with a general store and a bank. The last stage of this trek begins with a steep climb to the Margan Pass with breathtaking views of the Warwan valley and the Nun Kun peaks. From the pass it's an easy descent to Lehinvan where buses are available to Anantnag and then Srinagar.
Season: June to October.
Duration: 6 days.
Stages: Kishtwar to Palmer to Ikhala, Ikhala to Sirshi, Sirshi to Hanzal, Hanzal to Yourdu, Yourdu to Inshin, Inshin to Lehinvan.
Note: Rest houses are available at all stages. A cook will travel with you. All baggage will be carried by horses.
The Kashmir Lake Trek is one of the most popular in Kashmir. The trail follows the traditional route of the Gujjars (the nomadic shepherds of Kashmir) from Sonmarg to Harmukh, passing four picturesque high altitude lakes with spectacular mountain scenery, flowered campsites and trout fishing. The first day brings the trekker to the meadows of Shok Dharan, with panoramic views of Zozila and Sonmarg. Then the trail climbs to the Nichinni Bar at 4,000 metres, where the reward for hard work is uninterrupted views of the Baltoro Glacier in the region of K2. From there the trail descends through lush meadows covered with wildflowers to the glittering Kishensar Lake. The lake has excellent trout fishing. From Kishensar, the trail climbs to the Vishensar Lake through open marshland to a pass at 4,300 metres. On a clear day a magnificient view of the Nanga Parvat is possible from here. The trail descends to the town of Gadsar and trekkers can spend the night in one of the Gujjar encampments that spring up here in the summer. After crossing over a permanent snow bridge, the trail winds a tough climb along the Satsaran ridge and down through open pastures to the village of Jowdor. This is the only permanent settlement in the area and the villagers (migrants from Gurais) depend on agriculture for their livelihood. The rare Musk deer and the Kashmir stag are regularly sighted nearby the village. From Jowdor the trail climbs steeply to Megandob and then descends to the lakes of Gangabal and Nudhkhol. The pass at 5,755 metres, just before the descent to Gangabal, offers a spectacular view of Mount Harmukh. Gangabal is the best lake on this trek for trout fishing. The local fisheries guard will help you identify the best locations and the most effective flies. You have the option of climbing to the south ridge of Mount Harmukh to get a clear view of the valley of Kashmir. On the last stage, the trail descends steeply from Nundh Kohl to Naranag through dense forests. The 9th century temple at Naranag is worth a visit. From here to Wangat is a 6 km easy walk. Wangat is connected by bus to Kangan and from there to Srinagar.
Season: June to October.
Duration: 7 days.
Stages: Sonmarg to Nichinni (13 km), Nichinni to Kishansar (13 km), Kishansar to Gadsar, Gadsar to Megandob, Megandob to Gangabal, Gangabal to Naranag.
Note: Pack ponies will carry all provisions. A fishing license must be obtained in Srinagar. Acclimatize before attempting the trek. There are hotels and rest houses at Sonmarg, and rest houses at Kangan and Wangat.